Main Page/2008-08

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This was a draft of the Main Page from August/September of 2008.

The goal of the Metagovernment project is to make the governance of any community as accessible as a free software project. No one is required to participate, but everyone is allowed to participate, just as software developers can contribute to open source projects and editors can contribute to Wikipedia.

This form of governance, called open source governance, does not entail voting or majority-rule. Instead, people may help govern any community as much or as little as they wish by creating, discussing, and supporting resolutions. User input is weighed by other users through a scoring system and brought to the attention of other participants interested in that input. Please explore this site for a deeper understanding of the mechanics of this system.

The Metagovernment project governs and develops Metascore, the software to aid and manage community-based open source governance systems. It is a global project in the startup phase, and we encourage you to participate.

Basic principles

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

Thomas Jefferson, 1816

Discussion of the principles below should be conducted on the basic principles page. Please go to Talk:Basic principles to discuss the content of this page. Please do not change this page without first discussing.

The basic principles of the Metagovernment project are as listed below.

This project upholds basic principles consistent with those developed in the free and open source software and direct democracy movements.

Common principles

The following two principles are generally held by every group and person participating in this community.

  • Government of, by, and for all the people – Anyone may contribute to any collaborative governance structure.
  • Openness in everything – All aspects of governance will be as open as possible, under the principle of radical transparency. All software and systems used to run administrations will be free, open source software and systems.

Suggested principles

The following two principles are held by some groups, and are suggested as mechanisms to make collaborative governance more sustainable in the long-term.

  • Without consensus, there is no law – Unless consensus can be reached on how a policy could address an issue, then there will be no policy on that issue.
  • Consensus through synthesis – When opposing views are presented, preference is always given to synthesis rather than either conflict or compromise.


Transitioning to open source governance is a process we hope to develop as part of the project, but cannot accurately predict. The following roadmap shows how open source governance may be peacefully instituted through existing institutions.

All open source governance structures begin only as communities decide to adopt them. If members of a community decide to use Metascore before the existing community has approved it, then things which are referred to as policies are not enforceable, and the open source administration has no power to use force, collect taxes, or otherwise exercise authority within its community.

When Metascore is used within communities, participants will periodically ask the existing authorities to cede power to the Metascore community. When any ruling body cedes power to the open source administration, the policies of the various levels of open source administration which affect the jurisdiction of the ceding government become real and enforceable, to the extent that they are not forbidden by a higher level of government which currently has established control of that area.

The first targets for transformation will be small communities. For example, you might adopt Metascore for governing your township, as a more efficient way of discussing decisions than voting and infrequent meetings at a town hall. You might even wish to use Metascore to run your local football league or social club: it can act as the governing body of any group of people, and proposes to be better, more inclusive, and more effective than any representative democracy.

Communities around the world will be invited to form governmental websites with support through the guidelines and systems provided by the Metagovernment. We expect that over time, open source governance systems will be the universal form of government, replacing currently widespread representative democracies.

We do not expect governments, particularly national governments, to cede their authority in the near future. The intention of the Metagovernment and its associated communities is to gradually make a governance system so superior to the status quo — and so compellingly, unprecedentedly democratic — that the people will demand a change to this form of government. In states which claim to be built on democratic principles, the people should be able to peacefully transform their government through the mechanisms of that government. In less democratic states, the transition may take longer, but open source governments innately are protected from brutal force, as they do not have a single leader or a single physical presence.

Until an open source government has the power to collect taxes or otherwise raise funds, members may be invited to act under the principles of adhocracy or perhaps to donate to possible nonprofit institutions which might act as the initial stewards of these governments. Any such initial nonprofit institutions should be viewed as transient and goal-oriented, to be dissolved once they are accomplished.